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DOE v. VILLAGE OF OAK PARK

October 5, 1994

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF OAK PARK, ALLEN J. PARKER, individually, and RUBY P. SMITH, individually, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN E. ASPEN

 MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

 Plaintiff John Doe brings this three count complaint against the Village of Oak Park, Village Manager Allen Parker and Village Human Resources Director Ruby Smith. Doe alleges that the Village deprived him of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also raises state claims against the Village, Parker and Smith. Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, we grant defendants' motion.

 I. Background

 Beginning in May 1993, upon learning of possible illegal drug dealing, the Village of Oak Park began an undercover investigation into its public works department. While the investigation did not discover any illegal drug sales, it did uncover a number of other unsavory activities by public works employees. These discoveries led to a round of disciplinings and dismissals in the department.

 As part of these dismissals, on June 4, 1993 Doe was notified by Human Resources Director Smith that he was terminated because he had failed a drug test. Further, Doe alleges that Smith told him the information regarding the reason for his dismissal would remain confidential. According to the Personnel Manual for Oak Park, an employee's personnel file and disciplinary reports are to remain confidential.

 However, on August 23, 1993, Village Manager Parker held a press conference outlining the undercover investigation and the subsequent termination of certain employees, including Doe. Despite any assurance of confidentiality, Parker disclosed the reason for Doe's termination at the press conference. These statements were reported in at least three articles that ran in two local newspapers, the Wednesday Journal and The Oak Leaves.1 The articles explicitly refer to Doe being fired for his failure to pass a drug test, but do not discuss any further investigation of Doe or any allegation of criminal activity.

 On March 14, 1994, plaintiff brought this three count complaint against the Village, Parker and Smith. Plaintiff alleges that the Village deprived him of a liberty interest in his occupation without affording him due process. In addition, he brings state law defamation and invasion of privacy claims against the Village, Parker and Smith. Defendants now move to dismiss all claims.

 II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

 A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) should not be granted "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957); Johnson v. Martin, 943 F.2d 15, 16 (7th Cir. 1991). At this stage, we must take plaintiff's version of the facts as alleged in the complaint to be true. Bane v. Ferguson, 890 F.2d 11, 13 (7th Cir. 1989). However, unsupported conclusions of fact and conclusions of law will not suffice to withstand a motion to dismiss. Cushing v. City of Chicago, 3 F.3d 1156, 1160-61 n.5 (7th Cir. 1993); Watters v. Harris, 656 F.2d 234, 240 (7th Cir. 1980).

 III. Discussion

 A. Doe's Section 1983 Claim

 The Fourteenth Amendment provides that "no state shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV. Doe claims that he was deprived of his occupational liberty without due process by dint of the Village's press conference concerning its dismissals in the public works department. "In order to state a claim for deprivation of a liberty interest in one's post-employment reputation, a plaintiff is required to show that (1) he was stigmatized by the defendant's conduct, (2) the stigmatizing information was publicly disclosed, and (3) he suffered a tangible loss of other employment opportunities as a result of public disclosure." Johnson v. Martin, 943 F.2d 15, 16 (7th Cir. 1991). Doe has satisfied the second prong of this test by alleging that the stigmatizing information was disclosed at a press conference and covered by at least two local newspapers. Plaintiff also sufficiently alleges the loss of other employment opportunities in his profession because of the damaging information disclosed at the press conference, thereby meeting the third requirement. *fn2 ...


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